Burnett unfixable at this point

The drill has been going on since June when A.J. Burnett’s season began to come apart. His stuff is too good for him not to be able to turn it around, so many people around the Yankees kept saying. Except for a brief period in June, it has been the same, tortuous trek for a pitcher the Yankees have invested $82.5 million over a five-year contract that is in its second year.

It’s a good thing the Yankees pulled out that victory Sunday night against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium or there would have been a lot more hand wringing around the team Monday night at Rogers Centre while watching Burnett get torched often and early in another horrible outing.

About the only positive for Burnett was keeping fence-buster Juan Bautista in the yard, although the slugger knocked in Toronto’s first run with an infield out in the first inning. A leadoff home run by John Buck in the second was an ominous sign, and matters got really ugly in the third.

A.J. opened the inning with a walk and a hit batter, and one out later surrendered a bomb of a three-run home run to Vernon Wells, the first of four straight well-struck hits that knocked Burnett out of the game. It continued a messy string of 11 starts for the righthander over the past two months in which he had pitched to a 6.98 ERA allowing 46 earned runs, 70 hits and 26 walks in 59 1/3 innings. He is 1-7 and the Yankees 2-9 in those starts.

The Yankees didn’t do much but strike out early on. Blue Jays starter Marc Rzepczynski, who was racked by the Yankees in two previous starts (14.14 ERA), had nine punchouts over the first four innings. A two-run home run by Curtis Granderson in the fifth off Rzepczynski and a three-run shot by Mark Teixeira in the seventh off Brian Tallet were still not enough to lift the Yankees out of the seven-run hole in which Burnett dumped them.

You hear people say that the Yankees need to straighten Burnett out, but isn’t it a bit late for that? What can possibly happen in one more start to make anyone think that the team won’t be walking a tightrope with Burnett in the post-season, which is just around the corner?

The Yankees will not have the luxury of a year ago in getting away with three starters for the duration. They will need four this time. Burnett was one of the three lasts year and had a huge victory in Game 2 of the World Series after the Phillies had beaten CC Sabathia in Game 1.

Monday night was a big game, too. The Yankees could have moved back into first place over the Rays, losers at home to the Orioles. Burnett came up small again. It is almost unfathomable to believe a starter on this team can have a 10-15 record, but only if you have not watched Burnett pitch.

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